A fast read frothing over with sugary pep and cuteness

BATTLE OF THE BANDS

From the VIP series , Vol. 2

A preteen superfan must defend her favorite boy band when a new group tries to steal their spotlight.

In this second book in the VIP series, Mackenzie Lowell has officially been accepted into the inner circle of pop sensation Perfect Storm. Thanks to her tour-manager mother, the feisty 12-year-old tours with the band, spending her days on the road with the boys and her friend Jilly (whose father is their manager) and writing in her journal. A new band, with the suspiciously similar name Thunder and Lightning, has joined the tour and stolen the song that PS member Kyle had written for Mac. Then secrets from Mac's journal begin to show up on the vlog of a wannabe reporter (and Thunder and Lightning fan) named Bad Kitty. Mac and Jilly must unearth Bad Kitty's identity and stop her before it's too late. As a prank war escalates between the boy bands and Bad Kitty’s mean-spirited vlog gains followers, could PS' tour be—gasp—canceled? Though sufficiently suffused with the realistic energy of a preteen fan traveling with her favorite band, the mystery in this volume feels contrived; even the most novice detective would be able to guess Bad Kitty's identity long before any clues come to light. Despite the lack of depth, this offering’s high-energy, high-interest diary format interspersed with Mac’s comics keeps the pages turning. (With the exception of a character in the comic, the cast appears to be largely white.)

A fast read frothing over with sugary pep and cuteness . (Fiction. 7-12)

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-25977-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A witty addition to the long-running series.

THE DEEP END

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 15

The Wimpy Kid hits the road.

The Heffley clan has been stuck living together in Gramma’s basement for two months, waiting for the family home to be repaired, and the constant togetherness has been getting on everybody’s nerves. Luckily Greg’s Uncle Gary has a camper waiting for someone to use it, and so the Heffleys set off on the open road looking for an adventurous vacation, hoping the changing scenery will bring a spark back to the family unit. The winding road leads the Heffleys to a sprawling RV park, a setting teeming with possibilities for Greg to get up to his usual shenanigans. Greg’s snarky asides and misadventures continue to entertain. At this point the Wimpy Kid books run like a well-oiled machine, paced perfectly with witty lines, smart gags, and charming cartoons. Kinney knows just where to put a joke, the precise moment to give a character shading, and exactly how to get the narrative rolling, spinning out the oddest plot developments. The appreciation Kinney has for these characters seeps through the novels, endearing the Heffleys to readers even through this title, the 15th installment in a franchise boasting spinoffs, movies, and merchandise. There may come a time when Greg and his family overstay their welcome, but thankfully that day still seems far off.

A witty addition to the long-running series. (Humor. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4868-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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